DP17151 Health, Income, and the Preston Curve: A Long View

Author(s): Leandro Prados de la Escosura
Publication Date: March 2022
Keyword(s): Health Transition, Inequality, Life Expectancy, per capita income, Preston Curve, Well-being
JEL(s): F60, I15, N30, O50
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=17151

Well-being is increasingly viewed as a multidimensional phenomenon, of which income is only one facet. In this paper I focus on another one, health, and look at its synthetic measure, life expectancy at birth, and its relationship with per capita income. International trends of life expectancy and per capita GDP differed during the past 150 years. Life expectancy gains depended on economic growth but also on the advancement in medical knowledge. The pace and breadth of the health transitions drove life expectancy aggregate tendencies and distribution. The new results confirm the relationship between life expectancy and per capita income and its outward shift over time as put forward by Samuel Preston. However, the association between non-linearly transformed life expectancy and the log of per capita income does not flatten out over time, but becomes convex suggesting more than proportional increases in life expectancy at higher per capita income levels.